Saturday, December 18, 2010

Emerging from the black hole of grading: Status

I thought this might be a common thread amongst us. Well, I would like to report that I am searching for other countries/colleges who might be interested in connecting for a joint project involving virtual blogging and beyond. We are, as Rich reported, ahead of the game as far as I can tell. I want to add video to my next term blogging. Other countries are blogging about snowball fights. Yes: from Germany to China. Snowball fights appear to be a major problem. What do you do with a student who throws snowballs at another student with intent to harm? How interesting is that to learn what the school issues are across the world. Snowball fights? Who'd a thunk it? My next blog may be a video one of snowball fighting....or my next assignment in 101 Fall II might be to respond to the question of snowball fights to those students far away.Or will that give our students ideas?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Community 2.0 and CUNY IT....

I took a break from grading [!] to go to the second day of this year's CUNY IT Conference held at the Graduate Center last Tuesday and thought I would share some interesting trends and even some relevant news. I was struck with two things: first, how mainstream IT and education are now (before this event was for 'sysadmins' and, well, 'geeks'). Secondly, I was amazed that the panels on online courses relied so much on Blackboard (and not so much streaming videos of mini-lectures) or Web 2.0 tools. I know some of us at LaGuardia are involved with online / hybrid courses. My department doesn't do this yet, but when if and when we do make this leap, we should be absolutely confident that we are ready for online instruction-the participants in this Community 2.0 are farther ahead than the presentations I saw when it comes to Web 2.0 tools!

The last panel was the most interesting, and we should all be aware of this. There is a movement underfoot to build a CUNY-wide 'student-publishing platform' using open-source tools like WordPress (blogs) and MediaWiki (wikis) with social networking ability using the expertise gained from an ad hoc group (centered at the GC and City Tech including English professors--who seem to have time to design and manage software development! -- and programming talent from the GC). They have put together the CUNY Academic Commons (which was launched last year). See . I haven't used the Commons much, but it seems simple enough: a social networking, publishing and blogging platform for CUNY Faculty only (and Faculty guests from outside institutions) to promote awareness and connections of research initiatives and particular programs. (I saw a strong demo. from a New Media program from York College. Using the Commons to promote itself instead of an in-house website is one solution to nder-responsive in-house IT support and restricted resources that they said they have at York. I wonder if there are any programs here which might take advantage of this approach.)

The flip-side to this effort is a similar platform for students. All kinds of issues and concerns were discussed including liability for inappropriate content, copyright, administration, hosting and development costs, etc. The CUNY Technology Director George Otte (whom I had the pleasure to work with at Baruch and at the GC) was in the audience, and he said a smart thing, "Build it and they will fund." Various ideas for funding a pilot were then discussed. And so this initiative is underway. (There was a fascinating discussion -- well, for me anyway, since I used to know a thing or two about designing software -- and that was their model at the GC and the Commons for supporting users, fixing bugs and such comes from Faculty and users, not from IT. This is possible only because of the ethos of open source, where any modifications can be easily requested and quickly made. If you have an iPhone / iPad this sort of thing goes on all the time with iPhone apps, which are not open sourced. You can write the developer or at least leave feedback with particular fixes and requested features. Try that with Google or Microsoft, for instance.) If and when the student version of the CUNY Commons arrives, it will be in what they said would be a 'federated' model where code and servers would be maintained on each campus, but content could be searched and shared across the University. This begs the question of what distinct advantage a 'curated' social networking / blogging site might offer vs. public Web 2.0 tools that we are using for the seminar and that students use in their spare time. I think there are several advantages: easier transfers between schools (overcoming huge costs for mis-matched Gen Ed. courses for transfer students as was mentioned), and also single-sign on for students, which means just one password. Student clubs and organizations could also establish an 'official' online presence more easily. (This interested me as an emissary for the upcoming Journalism Option at LaGuardia, for example.)

The last and most salient point was that for learning communities, resources and points of contact in content could be shared. I spoke up in my small group and mentioned that we are engaged at a pilot of just such an operation at LaGuardia! (That's us!) But wouldn't it be pretty amazing to connect students across CUNY campuses, for example, between Journalism students at LaGuardia and Brooklyn (where we will be sending students with an articulation agreement) and between LaGuardia and Queens / John Jay for our Writing and Literature Major, etc.? 'Virtual mentoring' between 4-year and 2-year colleges would seem to be a natural way to improve pass rates and promote student retention. Well, one day. We are already ahead of the curve, aren't we in this seminar? Well, back to my final grading.... Happy Holidays to All!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

E-Readers in the Classroom

Apologies if this is a little OT, but I sure need help with this (end of semester desperation). I know we're giving our students so many online surveys, but would anyone be willing to send out this short e-reader survey to their classes?

Basically it just asks them how they got ahold of their course readings and if they have any interest in using portable devices. We're doing an exploratory study with a bunch of Sony Readers. A bit aggravating, but I learned a lot about the IRB process at least (which caused a bit of anxiety, but went ok).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Community 2.0 Seminar Agenda / 10 December 2010 / C740: 09:00-12:00

Community 2.0 Seminar Agenda
10 December 2010
C740: 09:00-12:00
  • Freewrite: Envision the end of Spring semester. Where would you want your students to be? What do you want them to be doing? How does this seminar help to achieve this vision?
  • Follow-up Discussion: What are you trying to accomplish for your students through this seminar?
  • Assignment of Professional Support Pairs
  • Break into Professional Support Pairs
  • Adding information to the wiki (if needed); reading the wiki; working with your support partner to articulate what you want to do for a specific course or courses and how and with whom; problem solving.
Touch base with Network Partners

11:00-11:40 Demos
  • Netvibes
  • Google Cluster: Blogger/Docs
  • Ning
  • Discussion
    • Next time: Facebook!
  • Expectations for Spring
  • Course Codes for this semester
  • Homework

  • By Friday, January 7: Use your Contributor Tag to check all your blog entries this semester. You may also want to refresh your mind as to what others are doing by checking their Contributor Tags. Then compose a Reflective Blog that
    1. begins by restating your goal(s) for the Spring
    2. reflects on your own entries over the semester.
    3. reflects on what someone else said that you found provocative and link it to what you have done or are planning to do in this seminar.
    • By Friday, February 4: Update your syllabi/course descriptions on the Community 2.0 wiki. Remember, in particular, to identify themes and possible network partners (see, for example, Ximena’s entry for Brave New World.)
    • By Friday, February 11: Examine the syllabi/course descriptions of your Professional Support Partner: What are is/she planning to do? How is s/he planning to do it? What is s/he struggling with? Exchange supportive feedback via the Comment function of the wiki page (at the bottom); please be specific about the feasibility of your partner’ s plan in particular.
    • By Thursday, March 3: Have your revised syllabi ready for the seminar meeting the following day!

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    An unwelcome guest in the Community 2.0 homestead

    Those of you who still subscribe to (or, like me, forgot to unsubscribe from) the digest of our recent JAM might have noticed today's new post urging us all to "Think about your marriage and get a trusted women [sic]" (screen-captured below, in case the JAM administrators elect to delete the post):

    It seems to me that one might reasonably look upon such a post as an intrusive violation of the Community 2.0 space, or simply as an innocuous (and grammatically laughable) pest. Either way, it serves as a helpful reminder of the nature of public online forums, and potentially a useful teaching point for your classes. Posting and exchanging ideas freely on the Web is a bit like living in a house made entirely of screens: ease of entry for some means ease of entry for all, so we should all be prepared with a flyswatter in hand.

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Final thoughts...

    I do apologize for the late post, but aside from not having much to share regarding my class, I just needed a break from blogger. Last week, on Friday, I administered the final exam in the computer lab, but as some students wanted to take the exam the old fashion way (i.e.bluebooks), I made a sing-up sheet which each students signed indicating whether he/she were typing the exam or completeing it in the bluebooks. Basically the split was down the middle. But as they were working, about forty or an hour into the exam, I noticed that the students who were typing their exams only worte one or two paragraphs and were constantly flipping between screens -the readings and their exam. I haven't graded the exams yet but am curious to see if overall those who worte rather than typed the exams did better?
    Also, as the semester draws near the end, students are raising numerous arguments regarding their grades. For example, today we had a peer review and each student was asked to bring in 3 hard copies of his/her first draft of the research paper 2. Of course, the usual suspects came to class 1 and 20 minutes late asking to be allowed to participate in the peer review as they " were on time but there was a line in the library"? Another student felt that just because he saved instead of posted his blog assignments on his blog, those assignments are technically on time and he should be allowed to repost them and his grade should be adjusted.
    And lastly, following a class debate on Nov. 15, which I recorded and posted on the class blog on Nov. 20, I asked the students to cast a vote as which side- that defending men or women- should be the winning one. On Nov. 15, after the debate, I told the students that once I upload the video, they are to vote and then we will determine the winner. I finally managed to post the video on Nov. 20, and posted asking students to vote. Then in class, I reminded them to vote, once again. I included the vote as one of their blog assignments for the third blog assessment period, and uploaded the blog assessment form on Nov. 29, which listed all of the assignments I would be grading on Dec.5. I reminded the students in class to review the blog assessment form and update the blogs, and also posted on Dec.3 another reminder about the blog grading which I asked all the students to read before they left after the exam. This morning- last night I e-mailed students their blog grades-I received an e-mail from one student who said it was unfair to count the vote on class blog as an assignment as he chose to be neutral and didn't want to vote...So to be democratic, I told the whole class in class today, that they can think about this and tell me what their decision is this Friday- either I remove the debate vote as an assignment from the blog assessment and readjust all their grade or keep it as is.

    I apologize for this lengthy and uninteresting post, but this incident has made me more aware of how precise I need to be with outlining the distinction between class blog and student blogs. I though I was pretty clear on the class syllabus as the blog grade includes blog assignments,blog maintenance and participation. And also I need to be much stricter with my grading rather than accept the bare minimum. In other words, I have been trying so hard to engage the students and encourage them to use the blog as a forum of exchange and communication, that I rewarded even poor work/incomplete posts and provided feedback on drafts which came to the sum total of two sentences or one paragraph.
    Well there is always next term...:)

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Final thoughts...

    As the semester nears end, the class activities have been more focused on advisement, DegreeWorks and how to use eSIMS. Nevertheless, I did want to share a recent article from Time Out NY. It’s a cute article about New Yorkers who are obsessed with updating, documenting, and sharing their experiences with a larger web community, and in the process, may end up becoming observers of their own lives. The article also raises an interesting question that I have often thought about “Are we frantically documenting our outings because we want someone to know we were there, or because examining and sharing them somehow adds to them?

    Read more: Is social media bad for NYC? - Things to Do - Time Out New York,3#ixzz1794hZaTe

    I also learned a new word this past week at a SEEK/CD counseling conference; netiquette, etiquette rules for the online community.

    Audio files

    A number of the students are still doing the VoiceThread assignment. Some had problems with logging in - how many times do we need to say use your LaGuardia account since that is what Blackboard uses? On the other hand, I was excited with the results I had on Voice Board from my CPC - The Future of Work seminar class. Students had to locate an article on making the most of their internship and then provide one piece of advice to the class on Voice Board. They had to respond to two other students which I usually require in my online classes but they had the option to respond with another audio or a text file. First, the advice and articles they used were good! Then I was pleasantly surprised to see that a number of students opted to respond with an audio file. Voice Board seems to work so I will probably use it more frequently. Still need to figure out why it doesn't show directly in the Grade Center.

    I am in the process of reviewing the CPC final projects which included PowerPoint, podcast, audio, etc. and the wiki. I'll be able to tell you how these went when I see you on Friday.

    As for last Monday's videotaping - only one student did not show. Technically two but one disappeared since the group project. A few students plan to do their video over at home before posting to the ePortfolio.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Virtual Minds: Blog Evaluation System

    Virtual Minds: Blog Evaluation System: "I am working on a new blog evaluation system for next semester. I am going to have students post weekly blog entries and then pick ONE to re..."

    For Marianne

    So, I'm planning to have a post where I summarize my successes and misses for networks this semester, but, in the meantime, I thought this reflective post for my Shakespeare class would serve as a point of departure for the kind of survey Marianne wants to do with her students:
    Take a look around the whole Ning (at your page, other people's posts, my comments and assignments, etc.) and write a response to Ning 15 that explains

    1) one assignment that was fun to do and why
    2) one assignment that made you learn something about something (what are those "somethings"?)
    3) one assignment that you did not care for (why?)
    4) one kind of assignment or task that we did NOT do that you either did on your own (say, customizing your page, adding a discussion), or an assignment you would have liked to have done, or a TYPE of assignment you would have liked to have done more of
    5) whether, overall, you think the Ning was a useful tool to learn about Shakespeare (in what ways?)
    6) Lastly, what were YOUR three very best Ning entries and why do you consider them the best? (this last answer will count toward your overall Ning grade, so give it some thought).
    Notice that only one question asks about the tool itself (#5). That's because, as I said in a comment to Marianne's earlier post, I'm less interested in the tool than in understanding how the tool has helped my students learn or not.

    BTW, this is not a reflection on the whole course, but just on the work we did in the Ning. The reflection on the course is separate.

    Next Semester: Famous Last Words

    My classes late start at securing a computer lab in conjunction with my zeal for creating a megapolis definitely hampered the functionality of this past semester blogs. However, I am going to look at restructuring how the blogging pattern is used and to what end for Spring term. I have to decide what aspects really do translate to student success and which ones just become cumbersome chores for the students. Hmmm. Famous last words!

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Blogging Overload


    Towards the end of the semester my students work on longer range or more complex at home writing.  In addition, we have many in-class writing workshops.  The semester is designed with weekly blog entries, but by this time of the year I end up having students post their drafts as "blog entries."  Of course, they all get confused because a) I also require them to be printed out for days when we are not in a lab - so that a number of students either forget to post or to print; b) multiple drafts of the same paper get posted as separate blog entries, but ome students end up updating the draft on the blog, etc. so that their "blog count" is short.

    Does anyone else have this problem? It happens to me every semester!  I feel overwhelmed by the multiple stratae of student writing.

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    final exam in a computer lab vs. final exam in a traditional classroom

    So after our last Community 2.0 meeting and chatting with Doc. X, I've decided to administer the final exam in the computer lab, rather than the traditional classroom. The Midterm exam results were the main reason for this decision as students did very poorly. Some told me they would have been more comfortable typing the essay, rather than writing in a bluebook. This is a valid point, as the main portion of our writing for the class, has been done on the computer/blogs.
    Will keep all posted as to the outcomes of the final exam. Also, I'm administering the exam earlier as I've already scheduled it and only learned about the cancellation of the cross grading last weekend.

    Presentations Continue

    On Monday 11/22, one of my FPA classes had virtual enterprise presentations. These are always interesting even when some students don't do so well....they at least learn from their mistakes. I think this is the first semester that we didn't use all the class time with presentations/Q&A (this is a two-hour class). Presentations were shorter than usual, some forgot to identify the rewards if the investors gave them one million dollars and a few students barely presented. One student didn't show (this is not the first time) and this is not an assignment that can be made up. Two students emailed me in a panic last Sunday indicating that they hadn't received the final slides from their group members. If nothing else was learned, working in groups can be a frustrating experience.

    This Monday, presentations will continue in another format. Students will be making their two-minute professional pitch which will be videotaped and uploaded to their ePortfolio. Students have been posting to Voice Thread but a few are complaining about all the technology. A few of these students are also those who complain about everything and do little work. I wonder how many will not show just because it is the Monday after Thanksgiving (the date worked out the best though for coordinating resources).

    Hope you all had a pleasant holiday. I am sure a few of you are now like me....behind with grading!

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    Vegetable Orchestra

    Doctor X, this might interest you as you mentioned, few weeks back, you are teaching a unit on food. I saw the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra on the Sunday Morning show on CBS, just this morning, and it is really awesome. All the instruments are made out of vegetables.

    Speed post commenting and video of students' debate

    During the observations lesson, Nov. 12, I had students compose "Worst Date" post on their blogs; then I put them in groups of three and asked them to comments on their group mates' "Worst Date" posts with references to class readings. The observer really liked this activity, and even though most students did not overtly/specifically refer to the readings, the activity did generate nice exchanges between students. This Friday, I used this activity again to begin discussion about a reading "Fathering: Paradoxes, Contradictions and Dilemmas" and Okada's "Future Plan #2" photograph(two men with pregnant bellies). So thank you Community 2.0 for this blog activity suggestion :)

    Another activity which worked well was a debate which students participated in on Monday, the day we are in a regular classroom, and then I posted on the class blog. Since the readings and the topic of the debate- Are men or women more hurt by double standards?- will appear on the final, this is a great resource for the final exam and students are excited to vote as to which side won, since I refused to pronounce the winner :) Unfortunately, since the debate lasted about 20-25 min, the video was too long for blogger to allow me to upload to the post. So I had to upload it to youtube and then post the links- there are three links as the video was too long for youtube as well- on the class blogs. If anyone is interested, check it out. It is also a great resource for me, as the video nicely captures individual students' behavior and their participation. Of course I set the youtube video as private so it cannot be located/searched on youtoube and one can only view it if one has a link.

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    Thoughts about Facebook...

    The past two weeks have been relatively quiet in my freshman seminar classes. Tuesday’s group has been blogging quite actively, but my Wednesday’s group attended a panel presentation in lieu of our class this past Wednesday. I do believe that there’s an added value to the students for having to write down their entries instead of verbally discussing them in class. Of course there are students who have trouble focusing on web activities, but those who do complete them, seem to gain a greater insight into the issues discussed (and have a better memory for discussion topics).

    I also created a Facebook page for the College Discovery Program a few months back, and it has taken more time than expected to get students to “like” the page. The Program is using the page for announcements and programmatic events, and I plan on using it even more in the future. I also plan on using Facebook in my spring seminars but more about that later. From my personal perspective, I really like using Facebook for announcements, communications etc. It’s easy to see comments right below the respective entries, and students say it is “cool” to see their pictures on Facebook. I also feel that Facebook is the most effective tool for delivering time sensitive, real-time updates and information.

    I’m also working on questions for my end of the semester survey, and I will solicit feedback from the group at a later time.

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Suddenly on paper

    For the last two weeks students have been working on their ENG 103 major research paper; the early stages happened online, but as we were getting to a point where I wanted to have conferences with them, I decided to have them print their draft and also conduct a peer review session in the traditional way; of course the fact that we only have the lab once a week meant that by necessity some work would happen on paper at a time when all we focus on is this paper.

    Peer review on paper for a class that has done all writing and commenting almost exclusively online this term was a study in student behavior: in previous peer review sessions students focused on global issues--is there a focused argument, does it address the topic, how does the writer use texts etc. All of a sudden on Thursday, however, it was all micro-editing from spelling and commas to margins and fonts. Because we were not at a point in the drafting process where such comments are helpful, the experience was not very productive initially so I had to intervene to get them to leave such comments aside. Yet it did show me that students think of writing differently when printed, which is what I have been reading on a lot of other participants' blogs as well. So I am wondering if there is a way to combine the focus on content they have when blogging with the focus on format they have when facing a printed paper--as in maybe have them do a final peer editing session on paper.

    Thinking about Models and Plagiarism

    Managing the blog with two identical classes sharing it was something of a challenge as I had to remember to keep moving the "announcements" for the week to the top and as one class followed another I had to avoid any "surprises" as the second class quickly caught on that they could check the blog during the other class and know what was coming up. This was especially odd since the classes (both ENG102s) were out of sync due to graduation so the Thursday class was "first" and the Tuesday class "second" which left a lot of lag time between Thursday posting and Tuesday. Essentially Thursday had to work without models and Tuesday always had models of what to do from the other class (occasionally poor models).

    Which brings me to another point: since going online and public I have essentially put myself in the position of re-prepping every semester, at least to some extent, as my current students can Google search key words in my assignments and my former students blogs show up! If I keep my assignments the same, down the line I will inevitably deal with current students plagiarizing off of former students. I could check for this by Google searching, of course, but as many of you know one student plagiarizing off of another will often be missing the "cues" that indicate plagiarism. I am not so concerned about this in ENG099 as the CAT-W test at the end has to be passed and any plagiarizers are just shooting themselves in the foot. However, in ENG102 it could be an issue. Therefore, I am going to do some hard thinking about changing texts regularly and work on some methods to ensure that casual plagiarism does not creep in. Probably changing the texts students write about would work (I could keep all the ones I lecture on and that we use in class) or, if I continue to allow students to choose their own texts to write about, starting something like a wiki where they post their essays by work title (i.e. Ibarbouro "I Grew for You") so that students will know that I know what my previous students have done.

    I have also gotten in the habit of Google searching my own assignments to see what is out there that other teachers are doing and have found some similar classes and projects to mine. I think I will be proactive about this and link them on my site (Another neat project like ours!) instead of proscriptive (Do not look at these!). The more they know that I know the better off we will be.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Updates on Biology Class

    Last week I was at a Annual Bio-Medical Conference for Minority Students held in Charlotte, NC. Three of our five LaGuardia students who presented posters there won the best poster award. So that was thrilling.
    For my class, I gave them an incentive of extra-credit for participation on the google group discussion-- first person to respond would get an extra-credit. However, even that did not motivate them. There was only one question posted and no one attempted to respond to it!! They initially were excited to know about the extra-credit but my feeling is that when they found that only first one to respond will get it, they were less enthusiastic... My feeling is supported by the observation that they are showing more interest and enthusiasm in writing a reflection for the ePortfolio that I gave them as extra-credit. Here they know if they do it they will get the credit. I have been constantly reminding them and trying to make them realize the power of discussion group but it does not seem to work.

    Sunday, November 14, 2010


    We will be working on interviewing for much of this upcoming week. A number of the students are planning to complete their internship in Fall II and need some additional practice. We will review basic questions that everyone asks, what can/cannot be asked, questions from (some quite comical), and reviewing some interview videos. They will work in triads in class -- interviewer/interviewee/observer and then I will ask for volunteers for in-class demonstrations.

    In addition to these "routine" activities, this will be the fourth semester of classes that I have "invited" to my VoiceThread interview activity. There are eight basic questions that students need to respond to -- this is an audio file. They have the opportunity to review any/all the prior postings before they complete their own. This has proven to be a useful activity and then on 11/29, the students will have a two-minute professional pitch videotaped to see what progress they have made since the initial audio file. No matter how many times you may have been interviewed, there is always room for improvement.

    Reflections on a lesson plan and observation

    This Friday, during my office hour and right before my observation, one of my ENG102 students from last semester stopped by with her outline for a research paper for ENG101. This was exactly what I needed to relax a bit before the observations and pat myself on the back that I am doing a good job, and my old students see me as someone they can come to for advice and brainstorming on papers in their other courses. So Jazmyn and I sat for a hour going over her outline and her paper topic- she is writing a research paper related to a book Hurt written by her ENG103 professor. Since her paper focuses on the undecipherable signals sent to the one-to-be-broken-up-with, or soon to be the Brokenhearted, from the Heartbreaker, I encouraged her to check out my ENG101 class blog, the discussions and readings.
    In order to prepare for the observation, I saved the quick write post and the follow-up group work assignment post, in order to not waste time composing the posts in class. Before class, students were asked to read Adair Lara's "Who's Cheap?"and the quick write asked them to describe their worst date as well as state whether or not they gave their bad dates a second chance. Students really liked this topic and the class fell silent, except for the click-clicking of the computer keyboards. After the 10min, which they were given to compose their 'Worst Date' post and post it on they blogs,  I asked few students to share, and wrote on the board the reasons students, who volunteered to share their worst date quick write,  cited for either refusing as second date or agreeing to give the person as second chance. Thankfully, no one had any horror stories to share, although the boys- they are always the ones more willing to share their writing- had some pretty interesting 'dates' which fit nicely with the reading. As I jotted down the unappealing qualities/characteristics of women, the boys identified in their 'worst date' narratives, I asked leading questions in order to connect these to the double standards like being cheap which Lara discusses in her article. But very few students did the reading, and one student, who sat next to the observer, actually asked his neighbor is she could tell him what the reading was because he didn't read it. Ouch! Yet the discussion did not die, and while girls were a bit resistant to share, the male students turned to the observer- who was a female- and asked her what was her worst date experience. She, professionally but not in a stand-offish manner, responded that she has had so many, she cannot possibly name one. Then students asked me, and as I, in an effort to offer a female perspective, decided to share that once I went out with a guy who got drunk, and on our way home, when we got pulled over,   he got arrested and then blamed me for his arrest. And I, being a naive young women, felt bad and helped him pay for the fines related to the arrest (this was an ex, not just a person I went on a bad date with). Probably not something I should have shared, especially with the observer.
    For the remained of the lesson- 20-25min- I put students in groups of 3 (1 girl and 2 boys as there are quite a few more boys than girls in my class. And I'm beginning to think it might be due to the masculinities theme of the course?) and asked them to comment on each of their group members 'worst date' posts. The comments had to make a case for why the student who authored the 'worst date' post should have or have not given the date a second chance. In the comments, I also asked students to include references to the Lara reading and a Bordo reading from previous class, as these two readings will appear on the final. Some students tried to incorporate/include some references, but very few did.
    Overall, the lesson wasn't a complete disaster and the observer, as she left said it was a great class. But she could have meant that the students were great?
    To sum up this very LONG post, although I hoped to get the students to think about double standards, the fact that they didn't do the reading or maybe my failure to emphasize the reading and quick write assignment's connection, foiled my plans a bit. But what I did notice is that students not only took a lot of interest in their peers posts but actually began engaging each other in conversation. What I mean is, students who do not speak very often in class, now began talking with the group members.

    One Englishcompville Down: One Englishcompville Up

    Due to enormous technical difficulties (mine), the Spruz compville site burned. It just was not working. However, once the class was actually able to work in the lab, we were able to work on the new and improved Englishcompville site One class easily transitioned into the blogging...incorporating their own personalities. Students worked together on the directive (a vocabulary blog) as well as joining and uploading various elements to the Compville Research Archives page, the Compville Travel Bureau, Compville Comix, Compville Radio Station, etc.
    What was more interesting was that the second class, the more disengaged, rowdy students began to write sentences using the vocabulary in earnest. One particularly disruptive student settled down to write sentences that were accurate (albeit somewhat inappropriate in nature). Somehow just the act of blogging appeared to soothe her enough to sit still. This goes along with what Rich said about the students being more comfortable learning from video, and the nature of this generational beast. Can it be that just using the computer is a mild sedative similar to the act of knitting for relaxation?

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Contacts have been made

    The students from my class ( Group Dynamics) have been providing several of the students in the Freshman Seminar with very good information on how to be a successful student in college. Not all of the FSM students have been contacted yet but the SSY students will keep trying. My hope is that the FSM students find the information helpful. Most have not responded to the SSY student comments but at least the FSM students have another resource.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Improving Online Research

    Here's an idea for improving online research. I don't know if you saw the article referenced in The Chronicle recently on students' general confusion over research. (I just glanced at this and nodded, what social scientists would call the 'confirmation bias'--reading sources that confirm what I already know.) This gave me a sort of Eureka moment, assuredly minor, but here it is. Our students are bewildered by print. It looks all the same to them. A search on LexisNexis yields a myriad of citations on most any topic. Moreover, they don't know the difference between reputable newspapers like The New York Times or The Washington Post or USA Today. (Btw, insert mini-rant about its former CEO now running the NYC school system as chancellor here.) Without knowing the legacy of print, they can't be expected to imagine what's gone missing when all that content has gone online in whatever forms....

    But students might have a better chance at understanding video. We have been using some academic voices in class for my cluster, short videos with speakers including Oliver Sacks, cognitive scientists, the futurist Ray Kurzweil, et al. Following up with the idea that many serious academics have popular blogs, they are also on YouTube giving papers, debating, contributing to serious talk shows. So I found a sample of a Princeton molecular biologist and public affairs professor on C-Span named Lee Silver, who delivered a truly cogent argument on why human cloning will one day be acceptable as ivf as a reproductive option for prospective parents. (In class i mentioned that in certain cultures, however, the ability to choose the gender of a child, by cloning either father or mother might be, well, somewhat unequal).

    We then could do a search for a 'responsible' article on the subject written by the same speaker. We also discussed markers of prospective responsible videos on YouTube: C-Span, PBS, speakers dressed for business on a stage (and not in t-shirts on a couch in an apartment, for example. Also avoid any YouTube with a cat. That will probably lead nowhere). We discussed the idea of a 'talking head' -- remember that from early media studies? You know, students probably don't know what that is since so much of our media landscape has the swooping camera work of a video game or a reality TV show.

    Anyway, perhaps by doing some searching on YouTube and viewing and understanding the words of a 'responsible' speaker, students could find a side door to locating sources effectively that would fit and would be approachable and more on targer. Moreover, I showed them how to cite YouTube clips, which means they could develop not one--but two!--sources at a time this way. Using visual literacy to promote critical thinking about research sources.... Or something like that! It will be interesting to see what I get in terms of set of sources, due soon, along with preliminary drafts....

    Avoiding plagiarism in online activities

    I have just noticed, while grading one of my students wiki projects (they create an entire page dedicated to exploring a literary term), that the entire thing has just been copied and pasted from other places. Wholesale. All plagiarized. When I asked the student (otherwise an excellent writer and a seemingly good student) she admitted that that was really what she had been doing all semester with online assignments, including the informal online discussion blogs assignments. She seemed to not notice there was a problem, as if digital material is all the same -- in one place, out another, who cares, right? Plagiarism is only when you do it in one of your essays, right?

    Has anyone else noticed a disconnect in students regarding information they generate in a digital world and that which they generate, still on computers, but turn in on paper? I would have though there was the same risk, but this student makes me question it. She seems fully aware that it is not OK to copy and paste from the internet on papers, but when I ask them to complete an assignment online, she is surprised that the same rules apply--as if perhaps even the JOB was to find answers online and copy them onto your blog post or wiki project, without filtering through your own consciousness, assessing and providing original interpretation, commentary and analysis. Isn't that what the internet is, just data and commentary that has been copied from one place and put somewhere else? Isn't it just accepted that the internet is full of that? If our students are meant to be producing knowledge and commentary, and placing it in that digital world, why, they seem to wonder, do they have to play by different rules? OK, they understand that there are a set of rules and standards governing ESSAYS (something about the MLA police and the Academic Integrity enforcement squad), but the internet is free-play, words are everyone's and no one owns anything, so we can borrow at will -- it's all one big collage.

    What is the disconnect and what can we do early in the semester to make them understand that there are different rules for them (as students and as responsible users of the web in training) and for the crazy pajama web users and the 13 year old girls with blogs? I know the issue of the internet and the dangers and minefields of plagiarism inherent there have been discussed for some time, and for the most part students know it's wrong, but what makes them know it is wrong in papers, but not in online discussions and projects? And how do we help them see that there shouldn't be any difference, and not just in school, while a student, but in the future, too?

    Also, funny Onion video here:http:// In The Know: Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don't Give A Shit?

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Wiki Samples

    At our last meeting I had a discussion with Steve and Karim about wikis. While my wiki is generated by the students, I have dabbled with the idea of using a wiki for my class instead of Blackboard (met some resistance in the dept). I told them I would share some links of wikis that are used for classes and figured it would make sense to post them here.
    Applied Database Systems
    Introduction to IT
    Introduction to Computer Architecture

    I mentioned that I "attended" wiki summer camp so you may also want to check out the camp site.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Inspired by Rich's, Luke's, Marianne's, and Magda's posts, I decided to write about WHY. Why use these tools in the classroom?

    First, I have to agree with Luke in his distinction between an online class and a web-enhanced class (which is what I am doing). The objective of the first is to reach out to students who cannot attend regular classes for whatever reasons. The objective of the second--at least for me--is for the students to be able to do things they could not do (or do as fast--an important point in a school with 12-week semesters) in a regular classroom. Networking is one such obvious engagement that would be mighty hard to do otherwise. But even a simple activity like a collection of pictures entitled "Othello and Desdemona's Wedding Album" can sometimes yield some amazing results thanks to the immediacy of communications technology.

    To wit: on the spur of the moment during a computer lab class before we began studying Shakespeare's Othello, I asked my students to upload a picture of their choice from the web that would be included in "Othello and Desdemona's Wedding Album," a slideshow that would be prominently displayed on the main page of our Ning. They had to write a line or two as why they chose their particular photo. I got a variety of responses, from


    which, of course, started a lively debate about representations of blackness and interracial marriages in class (they also chose a photo of Tiger Woods and his wife). 

    Now, we could have done a similar job with paper photos that we made into an album, but the assignment would have taken much longer ("go home and find a photo..bring it to class...") and the resulting album could only be viewed one person at a time, so that the experience of seeing everyone's contribution simultaneously and recurrently (the album is placed on top of my assignment instructions) would be lost. The spontaneity of the discussion (and the frankness that came with it) may have also been lost (but this is just a hypothesis). In all, I feel that being able to use this digital tool helped my students plunge into one of the main issues of Othello before they even read the play, and all in a matter of minutes.

    Catching Up--from Blogging to Research on Hate Crimes

    Mid semester my 101 Justice Cluster students are truly excited about their research projects on Hate Crimes and I'm talking about it here because I credit the Ning for some of the energy and enthusiasm. We have one two-hour period in a computer lab each week and students are working in groups and posting their findings. So this blog is in support of Jason's argument that a lot more can be done on line--and I even feel that the holistic grading that I am doing as I read their blogs is actually better--esp at draft stage--than line by line grading I might be tempted to do (put that pen down!) if I had paper copies in hand. That said, I am asking for first drafts this week--on paper so I can get a handle on the whole project and guide them on finer details like citations.

    I've also done something new this time around in terms of the assignment itself. We have been reading and discussing The Laramie Project and are using the structure of the play as a template. This means that their primary and secondary research into a particular crime or incident takes the form of dramatic "moments"--which fits nicely because our course is part of a Theatre-Philosophy cluster. This strategy may be a little messy but it seems to be turning "research" (often dreaded) into something they are eager to do. (Link to the assignment on my Ning.)

    This same class also did group performances of scenes from Macbeth complete with costumes, lighting, music in the Black Box theatre recently; these were filmed and the intention was to have Dr. X's Shakespeare class review them. Problems arose when the film editor from theatre dept was unable to upload these quickly for reasons I won't go into. This was a lesson to me (and perhaps for us) about the importance of smooth design and execution (and our own control) of a linked activity. Two scenes were erased because the camera (property of theatre dept) was used for something else. I think going forward I will do my own filming even if the quality is inferior. The other reason this is important is that the students need the feedback right after they do the scene--not two weeks later. Dr. X.s students were ready--but I was not able to get the technology up!

    Overall at this point however I am totally committed to doing more work online and figuring out how to plan assignments for Fall II and Spring I in such a way that students connect online--they definitely are more engaged in this format and they are writing a whole lot more--and more thoughtfully.

    Satisfaction survey?

    Has anybody ever surveyed student satisfaction with Blogger or other web 2.0 tools? I know there’s the student pre-survey, but most of the questions focus on skill development/comfort, frequency of use, and expectations about grade, time commitment and accessibility. I’m still undecided whether students prefer online activities over classroom discussions and vice versa. When asked about their preferences (online vs. in-person activities), only a few students express their opinions and even then, it’s mostly neutral. I would like to develop a brief questionnaire that surveys students’ satisfaction (and experiences) with web 2.0 tools. I thought of using SurveyMonkey? In hindsight, it would have been great to compare student learning in “regular” classes versus web 2.0 enhanced classes. Of course it’s too late for the current semester as both of my classes are using Blogger and there’s no control group, but something to think about in the future?

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Presentation Preparation

    In a few weeks one of my CEP 121 classes will be making group presentations on their Virtual Enterprise project. I have three staff members who serve as my “local investors” each semester since they enjoy the presentations (and my brownies). This time around we have a cruise hotel, a vegetarian food cart, a movie/dinner theater and an online website that provides a variety of services – they are still formulating their final idea. Students will be asking for $1,000,000 to expand their business. This has been a good project since they can see how to work in a team, with different personalities and then make a group presentation. They will have an opportunity to grade their team members and comment on the other teams’ presentations. I use a group presentation rubric that I adapted from a business presentation at Baruch.

    I like students to view various presentations to get a sense of what is expected. Former students have given permission for me to show their presentations and then I also show them two different presentations that Steve Jobs has done. – the commencement address at Stanford and Present Like Steve Jobs introducing the Macbook Air. We use Jobs for comparison about the difference in presentations depending on the purpose/audience, etc. They always find it interesting that he reads when talking about his personal life.

    Students are also working on a podcast assignment – find a podcast that is related to either their major or a career interest . They then need to post in Blackboard responding to these questions:
    Why did you choose that particular podcast?
    What did you find interesting about it?
    What concepts or ideas caught your attention and why?
    What new knowledge did you learn as a result of listening to this podcast?
    How can you apply what you have learned in your future internship?
    Do you see any differences from what you have learned and what you see others you work with practice in your job every day?
    They have the option to post a text or audio file and of course, respond to two other students in the class.

    In my CPC 041 class (The Future of Work) students are conducting research on internship advice. They are then posting one piece of advice for others in the class using Voice Board. This is the first time this class will be using it and I hope that they will be more successful than my f2f class.

    Next week we will begin interview practice and discuss networking. We will then move into a VoiceThread assignment so more on that next week.

    Upcoming observation and pitfall of connecting with a different platform

    Although connecting my class, which uses blogger with Ann M. LRC103's Ning yielded only some exchanged between few students, I'm hoping my students will contact the students' from Ann's class, in the future when they are working on their next research paper for my class or other classes.  But as I exchanged e-mails with Ann about the feedback her students provided about my students' annotated bibliography via filling out an assessment form Ann created, then big mystery why her students did not simply post comments on my students' blogs became clear to me. While Ann sent my students' invites to her class' Ning, I, the scatter brain, did not do so for her students nor asked them if they have gmail accounts which would allow them to log into google and post comments on my students' blogs. AHHH!!! I was so annoyed with myself. But the students did exchange some e-mails and they cc these to me and Ann, so it wasn't a completely failed experiment.
    So on Friday, Nov 12, I'm getting observed and the observer will be actually attending the computer lab lesson rather than one in a traditional classroom. Therefore, while I came to believe that I mastered the 'observation lesson strategy' which is plan a lesson which involves group work so that I do not ramble and take over the discussion, how do I do this in a computer lab? For that day students' are reading a short article by Adair Lara's "Who's Cheap?" about women believing that a cheap man is also cheap with his feelings. My plan is to have students do a quick write in response to the reading - maybe describe a date on which they were expect to pay or their date was being cheap. Then have a quick discussion, and then ask students to give advice to each other by having them comment on each others' quick write posts. Maybe ask students to reference some of the readings which provided some insight on homosocial behavior, girl hunt rituals, men as beasts vs. men as gentlemen, etc.
    Any suggestions?
    Lastly, before attending the CCHA conference along with other Community 2.0 members, I was browsing around academic journals, looking for something smart to add to my talk about Web 2.0 in composition class, and I came across an article " Toward a Creative Social Web for Learners and Teachers" by Jianwei Zhang in Educational Research. One interesting point Zhang makes is that students showcasing their writing on platforms does facilitate sharing and having others read their work, but this does not mean students go back to their work and revise it or rework it.  I would have to disagree with Zhang as that is not the case in our classes, right? Students do rework their writing as that is the whole purpose of the writing process with our writing classes encourage and the platforms, like blogger, facilitate.

      Saturday, November 6, 2010

      Online and "Online"

      I am using both Richard's post and a conference presentation this weekend to articulate some thoughts I have had this semester about my presence as a teacher in the networked classroom. I would like to explain what I have gained from my grading online this semester, with the understanding that these benefits may only apply to me and perhaps may even be limited to this point of my teaching career, and are not an invitation for all to simply abandon paper grading.
      First, I will say that  the term "online" added to "class" creates an instant bad reaction in me. I had experience both with an online class I developed at my previous college job and with teaching online classes for Georgia's eCore, which delivers classes that are not tied to any campus. The workload was horrendous and there was a completely mercenary feeling--I had little sense of these students registered in my classes as individuals. The attrition rate was higher than any other class I taught, and despite copious comments on my part (I would use MS word and insert comments as bubbles and also include the compare drafts feature), discussion posts, synchronous chats and what not, these classes never came close to delivering the same kind of success for students or feeling of accomplishment for me as a traditional class. Thus while I like technology in my life and I am the kind of person that sees it as fun and not a feared element, I did not see the value in online delivery or using technology other than in the setting of a traditional classroom.
      In a way, I see my cluster this semester as a traditional classroom that uses non-traditional methods of learning and teaching, not as an online or hybrid class. My students post everything on blogger and I use google docs for grading--the result is not only that my students see writing as an activity which is not "work" but frankly I see it that way as well. The whole ritual of packing my briefcase with papers, taking them home, placing them on a desk like a bomb that is about to denotate and kill my mood had gotten quite tiresome (especially after making the idiotic mistake of teaching Fall II and Spring II, thus going now on my year and a half of teaching with only a two week-break last winter and a three-week break last August). I also see these writings differently: because they are always part of a blog they are never just papers, and as I look at my comments I see that I don't repeat the same comment across essays even if they have the same problem--the personalized blog which hosts these papers has created a need for a personalized delivery of the "these paragraphs offer no support for their claims" message. Not to mention that I can simply work on two or three at a time on some break wherever I have online access, regardless of whether I have the pack of papers with me.

      Friday, November 5, 2010

      Hybrid vs. Online Clusters and Workload for Students / Teachers

      I just received a memo about rules for hybrid (or online courses), and it resonated with a few ideas I've had with the relationship between online and in-class pedagogy. Simply put, I was wondering if some of my students are being overwhelmed with all our online activities (because they still have to turn in regular assignments or papers!) And it's clear that by blogging and so forth does help them learn (I was WID'ed last year!), it also turns most every class into a 'writing-intensive' one. And, of course, for instructors still using some paper, we spread our energies online as well as in giving feedback to paper documents. (I know some of us in this seminar don't use paper at all. Kudos to you.) I still can't mark up--er, I mean grade--electronic documents effectively, even with my iPad (annotations don't yet work that well), and I've tried most every tool out there for Windows and Mac. I know a few of my students are frustrated with their (lower) grades on our paper-based assignments, when they feel more comfortable with the online writing, which is only about 20% of their course grades. All this is probably my suspicion that being a devoted teacher in both the online and the paper-based side is a bit exhausting. Perhaps when we leap to online courses, some of this dilemma will resolve itself. (My department, English, doesn't seem to have a plan when it comes to online courses, but any issue of the Chronicle seems to suggest many institutions, even community colleges, are jumping right in....) I do feel the experience of this seminar is good prep for the transition to teaching online, but until that is a possibility, I think that all of us--students and teachers--can feel a bit overwhelmed at a 'hybrid' approach. We still have to prepare activities for physical classrooms and all the challenges this entails; meanwhile students seem to prefer the online aspects.... When will course requirements change to allow for blogging to count 'for real' instead of a useful complement to the 'real' work of a class? I will certainly feel better about all this after my teaching observation on Monday (which will not measure in any way any of my online teaching activities. These remain wholly 'invisible' in my teaching record, and yet they seem to consume more and more of my time.)

      Thursday, November 4, 2010

      WARNING: Using Google Docs @ LAGCC

      PROBLEM: if you are using Google Docs in the computer lab, the view may be blocked by a red warning screen.
      FIX: To fix this simply click the "More Information" tab at the bottom of the screen and choose the third option at the bottom of the pop-up window "Disregard and Continue".

      Sunday, October 31, 2010

      Turning over a new leaf

      This past Monday, I administered the midterm exam to my students and when I graded it later in the week, I became very alarmed. The whole class did quite poorly which surprised me very much as their analysis papers were quite strong. I'm still baffled as to why this happened, since we had a review session, completed Venn diagram -which I asked students to post on the class blog and 20 of the 22 students did so-and the directions, prompts and leading questions I composed for the midterm were an easy outline to follow. In other words, the exam was an easy A as even if student did not do the readings and only attended class/listened to class discussions. So I've decided, and this is partially a result of a conversation I had with Dr. X during Friday's Community 2.0 seminar meeting, to administer the final exam in a computer lab and give students an option of either typing or writing the final essay.
      Is anyone else having a similar issue, where students' writing seems to be much weaker on formal assignments than what they post on the class blog/wiki/Ning?
      But I am very pleased to report that my students who have connected with Prof. Matsuuchi's LRC 103 students are actually communicating via e-mail and helping each other with research projects. While the successful connection rate is not overwhelming, of the 12 students who actually did pair up with research advisers(LRC 103 students), about 6 or 7 are actively working together and asking for advice on research sources.

      Saturday, October 30, 2010

      Mid-semester Updates...

      The last few weeks have been quite uneventful. Students have continued to work on their blogs and Mr. Dauz’s SSY260 students have posted comments as appropriate. Those students who had received comments on their blogs found them to be helpful and informative, while other students had neither received any nor noticed them below their posts. There also appears to be a small number of students who value the idea of blogging and recognize its usefulness while others choose to write the bare minimum. Unfortunately, students have not embraced their blogs as an online journal outside the class where they would document and track their progress throughout the first semester. Also, students are not inclined to complete their blog entries at home if they have no time to complete them in class.

      In a sense, I do understand the students’ point of view as many of them are using various technology tools in different classes. “Journaling,” in addition to writing essays, completing assignments and studying for exams, may not be their top priority. Freshman Seminar is not a writing based course per se, and students do not receive college credit or grade for the course. Personally, I am glad for this experience, and I will continue to find ways to make it more effective, useful and engaging for the students. However, I will seriously consider switching to Facebook for the next semester as it offers a tighter “social” network and ultimately, may be a better tool for FSM. Let’s see what happens.

      Friday, October 29, 2010

      Agenda: 29 October 2010

      **Printable version HERE

      9:00-10:00 Welcome and Updates
      • Coffee and Bagels
      • Reminders of Responsibilities & Etc.
        • Don’t forget we are the key learning community! Our core activity this semester is to see what others are doing and plan for Spring.
        • Missing Links
        • Posting Weekly
        • Kinds of Posts
      • December Date Change--Doddle poll under Links
      • Discussion of Activities so Far (beginning with newest participants)
      10:00-10:50 Connection Making
      • Missing Links
      • Possible Activities:
        • Theme Discussion Break-out groups
        • Surveying Participants’ and Affiliates’ Work
        • Connecting with Peers
        • One-on-one Demonstration of Platforms (Google Docs, FB, Ning, Blogger, etc.)
        • Team Planning for Spring
      10:50-11:00 Break

      11:00-11:50 JAM#1
      • JAM #1 Planning and Set-up
      • JAM #1 Posting
      11:50-12:00 Final Remarks